For a marketer, it is very important to know how to make the optimum use of their budget and spend it in the right direction. It is also crucial to understand which mediums will fetch them the best results and where should they put most of their money. But how does one choose between digital and traditional mediums? Let’s delve deep and understand.
Which is the last advertisement you recall? Was it printed or digital? It is certain that most of you are likely to remember an ad you saw either on social media or on a website. The answer is not a result of the current Covid-19 lockdown, but even in usual times, we tend to remember what we are shown on our mobile phones via social media apps, e-commerce websites, in-app ads etc. In fact, that flashy and attractive DOOH of some luxury car that you saw about two months ago is something that you still remember! So what does it indicate? Should marketers just cap their spending on traditional media and put majority of their efforts and budget on virtual, or should they balance it out considering the fact that not all of their customers have access to non-stop internet. Either way, the decision has to be made to optimise marketing efforts of companies.
Traditional VS New: The Debate Ensues
Traditional media is mainly a form of media that targets a mass i.e. a broad audience with the use of print ads, OOH, radio ads, TV commercials etc. On the other hand, new media or digital media targets a narrow and niche audience through the use of social media platforms, search advertising, display advertising etc. Of these, social media advertising has become the most popular lately owing to the fact that the majority of India’s population is young which is completely hooked to channels such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. Moreover, thanks to the highly effective ways of targeting customers using profile data, combined with sound measurement techniques such as Google analytics, this medium is slowly surpassing all available forms currently. Even when it comes to cost involved, traditional media is more expensive as compared to digital. Therefore, smaller companies with limited budgets are going aggressive on digital.
If we go by statistics, the Indian advertising market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 10.62% till 2021 to reach a market size of ₹85,250 crore, as per a Dentsu Aegis Network’s report. Moreover, online or virtual advertising market in India alone is expected to swell at a CAGR of 34.43% to reach a value of Rs 45734 crore by 2023. In a similar study, media agency Madison has forecasted 5.1% growth for traditional media in 2020, while overall advertising expenditure grows by 10.4%. It further says that in 2019, traditional media had grown only 6% while digital grew 32%. In terms of media formats, TV is still the biggest contributor to ad spends of companies, followed by Print, Digital, Outdoor, Radio and Cinema in that order. It also highlighted the key fact that all mediums, except digital, are witnessing a drop in share. That is clearly indicative of the traction digital media is going to gain in coming few years.
The Glory of Digital
This rapid shift towards digital media is a direct result of the burgeoning number of mobile phone users in the country combined with cheap and widespread internet access. This medium can reach rural areas and smaller towns with highly targeted ads suited to the demands of consumers located here. As customer behaviour evolves, marketing has to evolve too. This is leading to the rise of digital marketing efforts as brands need to keep up to the fast changing consumer habits and target them wherever and whenever possible. The idea is, after all, to keep brand recall high at all times.
At this juncture, will it be right to conclude that traditional media will wither away? Celebrated ad guru and Founder & Chief Creative Officer at HyperCollective, KV Sridhar aka ‘Pops’, says, “Traditional media is a wrong term, there is nothing like it. It is a highly effective media and it would be inappropriate to call it traditional. Digital and print will continue to co-exist.”
Talking about how he thinks the whole media and advertising scenario is evolving, Pops says, “Kindle has not replaced books even when reading habits have changed and the way people consume media has changed. Everything is evolving and everything is going digital. Internet is part of our lives and there is no denying that. We are talking about a live world where people want to know things as they happen – be it news or a product launch. Today, people consume far more news on Twitter than on TV channels. Therefore, one needs to change and evolve to keep pace with changing times and habits.”
“Just like entertainment as content and news as content will not die, advertising as part of promotion will also not die. Advertising brings in marketing and emotional benefits to people – firstly, it needs to communicate that a product exists and secondly, it needs to build a relationship. Today, digital agencies and digital advertising have become far more rational and transactional than other advertising platforms. What is important is that people should really understand how to orchestrate their story in all the formats of content, whether it is a static post, moving post, voice, experience or interaction. In fact, this is what advertising agencies have been doing all these years, they have understood consumer insights and told stories beautifully. Now that is something that won’t change. It won’t change for marketers or consumers,” Pops adds.
The above comments throw light on the fact that even though the form of reaching out to customers may change, the idea of advertising will remain the same.
Outdoor going strong!
Coming to outdoor advertising, it is still one of the most popular amongst other emerging forms. Since decades, companies have used this medium to reach out to their audience in order to drive purchases. In fact, this has been clearly helping brands make profits as outdoor still forms a major chunk of their ad budget. But what makes OOH still so promising? It comes packed with several advantages over digital display. It provides great visibility to the brand and grabs the eyeballs of almost every passer-by if placed correctly. Online ads, however, come with an opt-out feature and a user has the option to either close it or clock the source completely. The impressions are far fewer as compared to a traditional billboard. What makes it more exciting is the fact that it comes with various options in the form of billboards, vehicle wraps, banners, transit advertising, street furniture etc. One can go super creative with them by doing guerilla advertising and making sure the ad becomes talk-of-the-town. For example, a recent Netflix billboard creatively used props and directional lighting to produce a ‘Dracula’ theme based effect. Examples like these prove the worth of outdoor media even during digital times.
In fact, OOH actually complements digital advertising! A research from Ocean NeuroScience found that consumers are 48% more likely to click on a mobile ad after being exposed to the same ad on an out-of-home first. Similarly, a survey by Nielsen and OAAA found that 46% adults had conducted an online search after first seeing the product in an OOH ad.
Pops asserts, “I think outdoor media industry is highly underrated. People thought that out of home is going to disappear with the emergence of technology. Globally, this industry has become far more digital – it is about IoT and connecting things. A lot of data is being used on outdoor media. Today, the advertising industry is more conservative than innovative. We need to understand that it is not the placement that becomes innovative but a greater use of technology, along with some entertainment & interactivity in outdoor media. We have started doing that and I think within a couple of years the outdoor industry can live up to the global standards.”
Rise of DOOH = Fall of Traditional OOH?
Moreover, just like every advertising channel, OOH too is evolving. A disruption in this area has come in the form of DOOH. Brands are vigorously trying out this new medium as it brings to them the possibility of doing so much more in their outdoor activities. An advertiser can use data feeds, dynamic HD quality videos, programming, motion sensors etc. to create a surreal experience for a passerby. A report by On Device Research highlighted the fact that DOOH ads are twice as likely to be seen and are 2.5 times more impactful than static OOH ads. All of this makes DOOH a compelling medium for brand and product promotion. A recent installation at a Mumbai metro station for Hair & Care’s #khulebaalbefikar campaign used simple and interactive display combined with trigger sensors to create an element of surprise amongst passengers. Similar campaigns are now being used by brands to create an immersive experience in the most effective way.
DOOH is emerging as one of the most sought after mediums in advertising. It doesn’t directly mean that it is better than traditional or static OOH. Both have their pros and cons and it is on brands to realize that one cannot easily replace the other, especially in a country like India. LED/LCD screens cannot be displayed everywhere in this country due to lack of awareness, weather conditions, power issues etc. It is currently mostly limited to indoors such as in airports, metro stations, malls, showrooms etc. there is another issue related to price. It is often misconstrued that digital translates to lower costs. However, it is not so always. Pradipta Chowdhury, National Head – Graphics Division, Fujifilm India says, “There is definitely a threat to traditional OOH from digital signage. It is going to happen for sure but India will take atleast 10 years to switch majorly to digital as the initial investment is pretty expensive. One cannot put thick LEDs everywhere. China, Korea and US have gone digital but in a cost-sensitive market like ours, it is going to take time.”
It is evident that DOOH is set to grow but brands will continue to rely on both digital and traditional OOH as latter is also becoming more refined, opening up a world of possibilities combined with technology. Today, static billboards and vehicle wraps can make the use of GPS, Wi-Fi, location data, motion sensors etc., adding an element of dynamicity to static. Thus, there are options galore even in static traditional OOH.
NFG – Need for Green!
Having considered the potential of various mediums, the next question that arises is that of sustainability. Going Green is becoming the new normal for companies across sectors, and advertising is no different. Brands consider sustainability as a key part of their strategy and they are now looking for those mediums that make the least detrimental impact on environment. This would obviously lead them towards digital. As we said earlier, digital marketing and DOOH are picking up fast and some may even see them as a threat for traditional channels. From a green point of view, digital displays have various advantages such as broadcasting of various ads on a single screen, no requirement of extra props and non-recyclable media etc. However, agencies involved in traditional OOH are also taking steps towards making the whole process sustainable. JCDecaux is making efforts to drive greener practices in OOH and is working on two main factors – greenhouse gas emissions associated with installation processes and sourcing and disposing of the paper and plastics used to run campaigns.
Another example of how companies can promote eco-friendly OOH is by turning their billboards into environment saviours. For example, Toyota’s ‘Eco-Billboard’ that helped to remove nitrogen dioxide from the air by acting as an air purifier through a titanium dioxide-coated vinyl, and urban garden billboards.
Coming to the substrate/media used in billboards, what the industry is currently using is not exactly eco-friendly. Flex and vinyl commonly used in outdoor promotions come with the load of being non-recyclable. Despite the alternatives available in the market, these mediums cannot be replaced as they come with the advantages of low cost, durability, weather-resistance, long life and better print quality.
Environment-friendly or not, these mediums are still the most sought-after by both companies and outdoor agencies. Ashish Chauhan, Director, Pure Media Imagination, says, “Vinyl and flex are not going to go. The wrap outside of a metro is always more powerful than the digital ads running inside the compartment. Recall of the digital campaign is less. What companies can do is tie up with organisations and NGOs like Goonj that reuse flex to make useful products. They can include it as part of their CSR and make sure that all of their flex is being reused or recycled.”
Why DOOH is still unable to compete with traditional OOH?
According to Chauhan, the impact of one big hoarding is much more than multiple digital screens. “The sheer impact of a Bandra hoarding cannot be matched with DOOH of entire Mumbai. The confidence in one big mass hoarding is much more than thousands of DOOH across Mumbai. Companies will still choose that one big billboard. This might change in the future but it will take a very long time.”
He further remarks, “DOOH has another problem – lack of effective ways of tracking and measurement. The tracking of DOOH is very much in the hand of media owners. The reports going to brands cannot be cross checked and thus, their credibility is untested.”
“For bigger campaigns in major markets, OOH is always perceived as the most impactful medium as it uses bigger canvases. This kind of mileage and recall is not possible with DOOH. In close vicinity, it is fine to have a digital display but when one talks about mass and large scale, canvases become important.”
The Future – Will Dynamics Change?
Ritesh Ghoshal, Chief Marketing Officer, Infiniti Retail (Croma), is of the view, “A lot of shift is happening from traditional to digital but that doesn’t mean that the former is going to die. At the end of the day brands will look for consumers wherever they go, so if you look at mediums like print, outdoor, cinema etc. – all of these are growing. Outdoor has great potential. Today people spend a lot of their time outside, and therefore, outdoor is important. People in this industry are looking at ways to make it more interactive and a lot of technological innovations are happening in this space. I think, making it more interactive will appeal to brands to spend more money on this medium as they will be able to reach out to their customers more effectively.”
As DOOH picks up, will it mean that OOH wil get a lesser share of marketing budget? Chauhan gives his views, “The push that is happening towards DOOH and digital is happening from the perspective of digital agencies. The budget used for DOOH is coming from the digital budget of a brand that is getting routed from digital agency. Therefore, traditional OOH is not going to suffer. After the end of this current Covid-19 pandemic, traditional media will make a strong comeback. DOOH will complement it and its share in digital side of the budget will go up. This will not impact traditional OOH in any way and status quo will be maintained. However, incremental revenue will come from DOOH, and not traditional OOH, whose share in revenue will remain the same.”
On companies cutting their marketing spends, Ghoshal says, “There could be temporary cuts on marketing spends because of the fact that little bit of a slowdown is happening across various sectors. But it won’t be a permanent issue and I would assume that it is just a phase and things will bounce back.”
It can therefore be concluded that all the mediums will continue to complement each other with the share of digital rising slightly. Traditional media is not going to die anytime soon. It is changing its form, evolving to meet the changing needs and habits of customers. It serves a different purpose that involves making a personal connection with the customer. We humans crave for touch and feel, and this is exactly why traditional media is still so popular. What is important for marketers to understand is that they should bring together the best of both worlds to maximise the success of their campaigns.